On the spot where the Isaac church stands, the Russians have been at work upon a place of worship for the last century. The original one was constructed of wood, but this was subsequently destroyed, and the great Catherine commenced another, which she intended to face with marble, and which, like many other of her undertakings, was never finished. The emperor Paul continued the building, but in brick. This half-and-half edifice vanished, however, in its turn; and under Nicholas the present magnificent structure has been erected—such a one as will scarcely find so splendid a successor. To make a firm foundation, a whole forest of piles was sunk in the swampy soil, at a cost of a million of dollars! The present building is, as usual, in the form of a Greek cross, of four equal sides, and each of the four grand entrances is approached from the level of the place by three broad flights of steps, each whole flight being composed of one entire piece of granite, formed out of masses of rock bro ught from Finland. These steps lead from the four sides of the building to the four chief entrances, each of which has a superb peristyle. The pillars of these peristyles are sixty feet high, and have a diameter of seven feet, all magnificent round and highly-polished granite monoliths, from Finland, buried for centuries in its swamps, till brought to light by the triumphant power of Russia. They are crowned with Corinthian capitals of bronze, and support the enormous beam of a frieze formed of six fire-polished blocks: Over the peristyles, and at twice their height, rises the chief and central cupola, higher than it is wide, in the Byzantine proportion. It is supported also by thirty pillars of smoothly-polished granite, which, although gigantic in themselves, look small compared to those below. The cupola is covered with copper, overlaid with gold, and glitters like the sun over a mountain. Prom its centre rises a small, elegant rotunda, a miniature repetition of the whole, looking like a chapel on the moun tain-top. The whole edifice is surrounded by the crowning and far-seen golden cross. Four smaller cupolas, resembling the greater in every particular, stand around, like children round a mother, and complete the harmony visible in every part.
Sears, Robert. An Illustrated Description of the Russian Empire. New York: Robert Sears, 1855